What countries does BellaTerra cover?
We specialize in France, Italy and Spain. Our individual consultants are typically Travel Specialists in one or more of these countries. In these countries we have providers that we have worked with for several years – we know the hotels, the activities, the guides and more. We also have experience designing tours that include nearby countries such as UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece, and Portugal.
What’s special about BellaTerra?
We are a small team of experienced people. We monitor closely all the details before, during and after your trip. To give you an example, we have learned from our own travels that driving in Florence is not easy, so we will have you drop off your car rental right outside of the city to avoid those problems. We try to think of the things that will make your trip as seamless as possible so you can enjoy every minute of your trip.
We are avid travelers ourselves and we like to go places that preserve the authenticity and the atmosphere of a culture. We try to share that as much as possible and select our hotels and providers accordingly. We work with a lot of smaller boutique hotels and local native tour guides who will be truly focused on making your experience a unique one. We celebrated our 10-year anniversary in 2014 so we have a few trips behind us! We are still learning every day and we happily pass on that knowledge to you.
What are the different services you offer?
Our consultants have 3 different approaches to designing a trip:
- The Classic - These are tailorable packages that are most popular amongst our travelers. These trips cover key sites and can be modiﬁed depending on the type of hotel you would like and number of tours. This is a cost effective way to create a customized tour.
- The Truly Custom - This is a trip made from scratch just for you. Let us think it over, mold it, bake it and voilà! A unique experience to ﬁt your dreams.
- The Wanderer - This is a custom driving tour. We get you the car rental, the keys, the directions, and hotel reservations. Fit for the explorers out there who would rather figure things out themselves but need that little extra nudge.
Is there a planning fee?
There is a planning fee for driving tours only, of $250. There is no planning fee for custom or semi-custom tours. We are a reseller of travel and all of the costs are packaged in the price. However there is a non-refundable deposit of $100 required for both the Classic and Custom itineraries once we are engaged in detailed planning. This deposit is fully applicable toward your trip.
Who are your clients?
Our typical clients are very busy people (just like us!), who want to go on a family trip or on their honeymoon but simply don’t have time to do all the research it takes. Some have been to Europe many times, others are first-time visitors. Some are very independent travelers, others need hand holding. We also have the occasional group who wants to put together a themed-trip or simply get together. Whatever it is, planning your own trip always takes up way more time than you’d like and sometimes ends up being a temporary full time job! Since we already know all about every region of France, Italy and Spain, the varied accommodations, how to get around and all the details, we simply put it together for them so they can go on living their busy lives without taking precious time out of their schedules.
Is a Custom Tour much more expensive than a group escorted tour?
You should decide which one suits you best. With a group escorted tour you’ll be traveling with a large group lead by a tour guide at all times. The specific accommodations, activities, restaurants, may all be pre-arranged for you. A custom tour (that’s what we do!) will provide a more independent experience, all the while being planned out in advance. You can have a tour during the day and then go back to your hotel and have dinner on your own. We can plan days of leisure alternated with days of sightseeing.
What is a custom tour?
A custom tour provides you with exactly the trip you want. Select the locations that you wish to visit – in the sequence that fits your needs. Spend as little – or as much – time in each locale as you want. Select 3 star, 4 star, or 5 star hotels – or a mix of each. Interested in a cooking class in Avignon, a chocolate tour in Paris, a chance to retrace the steps of Jeanne d’Arc…we can make that happen. We arrange accommodation; transportation – air, train, auto, transfers; activities – show tickets, skip-the-line entrance tickets, private guides; you name it – and we’ll arrange it. If you aren’t sure, we can help determine what would suit you best according to your hobbies or interests.
What are the steps to planning my custom tour?
For BellaTerra, the first step is for us to listen. What are your interests…how do you like to spend your time…are you comfortable driving on your own…how long do you want to be gone…what are your budget parameters? We communicate (by phone if possible) and develop some initial thoughts. We then put together a preliminary itinerary which summarizes the main elements of your trip and initial pricing. You give us your feedback on that and apply a $100 up-front deposit, which is applicable towards the rest of the trip once you purchase it. We then develop a fully detailed itinerary, which can be modiﬁed until it is just perfect for you. Once we achieve that, you pay the 35% deposit, and then 60 days before your trip you pay the remaining balance. We work as a close team but you usually have one travel consultant assigned to work exclusively with you until your itinerary is finalized.
Can I ﬁnd it less expensive elsewhere?
Since the custom package is specifically designed for you, you will not be able to find the same thing elsewhere. A custom trip’s primary goal is to ﬁt your speciﬁc needs and usually involves fairly complex logistics as well as a high amount of items and providers. You may be able to put the same trip together yourself less expensively if you had known all of the details. That would depend upon a number of variables so we can’t guarantee otherwise.
Can I get an itemized breakdown for my trip?
We are a Certified Seller of Travel within the State of CA (# 208625-40) and provide our clients with a total package similar to buying a computer as opposed to the parts to a computer. The pricing is complex and provider contracts do not allow for disclosure. We can work with you to address budget concerns for items within your itinerary.
What type of customer service do you provide?
We started out very small and are grateful every day for our growing number of satisﬁed customers so we’d like to keep it that way. We get to know our customers reasonably well when putting together a custom itinerary for them and the most important part of our customer service is making sure that we treat our customers as friends. If there is something important or special for them, if there are considerations for some of the travelers, we are there to help any problems and research as necessary. (We don’t know every possible question in every place in all 3 countries). We have a 24-hour emergency line for our customers so that if there is any issue while they are traveling they are able to contact us. For customers who might need additional support for an extended stay or other circumstances we also offer specialized support services for a nominal fee.
Why are travelers required to have a cell phone?
Although you don’t expect things to go wrong or not according to schedule, things do happen. Things are easily handled if you can readily be reached. A few examples:
- if you have a rented apartment, you will have to call the owner when you land at the airport to let him know he has to be on his way.
- if for some reason a tour provider is late or you cannot make the tour
- if your train is late or cannot find your driver in the train station, etc.
We suggest that you get international coverage. Before you do that, make sure that your phone device will work in Europe. Alternatively, you can rent a cell phone or a SIM card that will work in Europe. We suggest www.eKit.com. If you like, we can include the cell phone rental in your package.
Note about European 3* hotels
Even though we work only with the best 3* hotels, note that this category can sometimes have fewer amenities than the typical American 3*. You will usually find simple and clean accommodation, basic amenities such as soap and shampoo, towels and private bathrooms. These hotels are often family-run and are great if you are looking for a base to explore the area. Our partner 3* hotels provide great location, value, cleanliness and charm, but be open for a slightly different experience than what you would get in the US.
Can you arrange transatlantic ﬂights?
Normally intra-Europe flights are included in your itinerary but international flights are booked separately. We ﬁnd that most people prefer to book their flights themselves either using their miles or just through their favorite airline’s website. This also allows them to pick their seats and make sure they are notified of any flights changes directly. We are more than happy to help you find flights. If you feel you would like us to book them for you, a service fee of $50 per person for issuing tickets as an extra service.
What is the cancellation/refund policy?
As a Certified Seller of Travel in California all of the monies you provide to us are placed in a trust account. They are required to be used to pay the providers for their services directly and BellaTerra does not receive proceeds until you return from your trip. Upon booking we transfer monies to the providers, prepayment being a critical component for receiving specialized rates. The booking deposit is refundable until 90 days prior to your departure date for up to 20% of the total trip. After that time the booking deposit is non-refundable. Upon receipt of the final payment the trip is considered 100% non-refundable. This is a fairly standard approach for custom trips such as this. We recommend purchasing travel insurance at time of booking.
Do I need travel insurance?
We cannot emphasize enough the need for travel insurance. It will not only cover you in case of cancellation of the whole trip (providing requirements are met) for a covered reason, but will also be of great help when you miss a connection or lose a luggage, or something happens to you before or during your trip. We have had clients with medical emergencies, or other unexpected circumstances who were very happy to have had travel insurance. Once your trip is set, we can provide a no-obligation quote at your request. We use Allianz Global Assistance which has proven to be most reliable and efficient, as well as a great value. Please keep in mind that should you need to cover existing medical conditions, one requirement is that you need to purchase a plan within 14 days after the booking deposit has been applied.
Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance benefits are underwritten by either BCS Insurance Company or Jefferson Insurance Company, depending on insured’s state of residence. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of these plans.